Japan's vaccine minister Taro Kono set to enter race for next leader

TOKYO: Japan's popular COVID vaccination minister, Taro Kono, is set to announce his candidacy on Friday to lead the ruling party and, by extension, become the next Prime Minister.  Taro Kono has formally announced his bid to succeed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga by joining the leadership race of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Adding to former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and former Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi, Kono is the third lawmaker to declare candidacy in the LDP's leadership race on September 29.

Speaking in press conference on Friday, Kono vowed that he would focus on curbing Covid-19 while "moving Japan forward", saying that "we have to overcome this crisis. I want to create a warm society where people can lean on each other". However, in contrast to his previous position against the use of nuclear energy, he said at the press conference that it is "realistic" to reactivate reactors that have been confirmed safe to achieve Japan's goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. He also expressed the need to promote renewable energy and denied having any plans to build new reactors.

Kono, with his reform-minded policies, has led public opinion polls as the preferred candidate to succeed Suga. Kono is due to announce his candidacy at Indian time 7 pm according to his office.

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